Short-term β-carotene supplementation of lactating mothers consuming diets low in vitamin A

Louise M. Canfield, Douglas L. Taren, Rina G. Kaminsky, Zeenat Mahal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that β-carotene supplementation of the diets of healthy U.S. mothers increases serum and milk β-carotene concentrations. Building on these results, we investigated the possibility that β-carotene supplementation could enhance the vitamin A status of mothers and their nursing infants. Three 30-mg doses of β-carotene were administered on 3 consecutive days to 44 lactating mothers who had vitamin-A-poor diets. Concentrations of maternal serum and milk carotenoids and retinol were evaluated at baseline and after 2 and 3 days of supplementation. Infant serum carotenoids and retinol were measured at baseline and 2 days following maternal supplementation. β-Carotene supplementation markedly elevated maternal serum and milk β-carotene concentrations (nine- and sevenfold, respectively) and resulted in smaller, transient increases of α-carotene, lycopene, and β-cryptoxanthin concentrations in maternal serum. Maternal serum and milk retinol were unchanged in response to the treatment. In contrast, maternal β-carotene supplementation significantly increased infant serum retinol (P ≤ 0.001) and β-carotene concentrations remained unchanged. These results imply that breast milk β-carotene can supply retinol for the nursing infant. Further research is needed to identify the site of bioconversion of milk-derived β-carotene to retinol and to describe the factors that regulate this process. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-538
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast milk
  • Carotenoids
  • Infant nutrition
  • Retinol
  • Supplementation
  • Vitamin A
  • β-carotene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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